The War of 1812 was a war that lasted for two years that helped the United States to firmly and officially establish its independence. After finishing with the concern of France, England turned its attention over to the United States. At first, the United States did not want to resort to war and fighting (Doc. B) but rather sort out their issues economically–because England had seized all ships that did not stop in the British port before heading to their other European destinations, Congress passed the Embargo Act and then the Non-Intercourse Act, allowing trade with all nations except France and England. Then, England refused to allow this trade to occur, so America had to resort to war. The Northeastern Federalists were not in favor of war, but the Republicans ultimately won the majority vote in Congress to declare war–the War of 1812 (Doc. G). During this war, America was very concerned with gaining control over land in this country as well as in Canada, but at the same time Americans needed to defend themselves against their strong British enemies. Either way, America had to abandon its position of neutrality (Doc. C).
During the war, Britain was very effective in fighting the Americans during many battles, so we needed to defend ourselves in every way possible, and often we were successful. In addition, America wanted to take revenge on the British for taking people from American ships and forcing them to work in the British Navy. The British were able to make their way via water to Washington, D.C. and burn down many parts of the city. After weakening the capital, they set off to Baltimore Harbor but Fort McHenry had already blocked their path, so the British actually had to attack from afar, which ended up not being so effective. America also blocked the British from success in the Battle of Plattsburgh. The United States was successful in capturing Lake Ontario and Lake Eerie, causing them to have very easy access to Canada. By being able to enter Canada, William Henry Harrison led the soldiers to kill Tecumseh in the Battle of Thames, making this a great victory over the Native Americans.
This does seem like an unnecessary battle done completely out of greed for control, but the defeat of the Creeks (allies of Tecumseh) in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend was helpful for the Americans in that Andrew Jackson led his men to destroy the tribe because they had been attacking whites along the Floridian border, and we annexed a section of Florida (Doc. D). Although the Indians may have thought that the Americans only wanted to take over their lands (Doc. F), America was not out to hurt the Indians–we actually wanted to be on good terms with them–but Madison made them aware that if it is necessary, Americans will fight them in order to protect their own well-beings (Doc. E).
Ending the War of 1812 was the Battle of New Orleans, when the British were planning to attack, but Andrew Jackson was ready with his men to destroy their enemies, and they were victorious. The War of 1812 officially ended with the Treaty of Ghent, which stated that America did not gain Canada, that impressments would not stop, and that America would have to return some land to the Indians (this statement was not really obeyed). But, a few other small treaties were written that allowed America to trade freely with England.
All of the various battles aforementioned except for the Battle of Thames were ones that were instigated by the British and the Americans saw no other way to deal with their enemies but to defend themselves. This does not connote that the Americans fought this war in the first place out of greed or land hunger.
Although the British did make many attacks on the United States during the War of 1812 and Americans did indeed need to defend themselves, America did not have entirely pure intentions (defense and struggle for complete independence were not the only reasons). During this rather pointless war, America had hoped they would annex Canada, and that is why the Battle of Thames occurred. The United States also wanted to cede Florida, hence the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. In addition, because the Republicans held the majority in Congress, President Madison felt he needed their support (Southern and Western states).
The opinion of these states, expressed by Henry Clay (a War Hawk), was that the country needed to go to war because they wanted to gain land and they were concerned over the falling prices of agricultural products and therefore the restriction on trade. America entered this war caring only about the white citizens and not really about how the Indians would be affected by their hopes for the end results of the war.
Americans did enter the war with hopes of annexing land, but the end result was completely different from the initial goals. After much unnecessary fighting, America left the war victorious in her own way–the country was finally completely free to do as she pleased, and the country was officially independent of any and all other foreign powers.
Courtney from Study Moose
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